Boys basketball | Fresh off hot start, Palmetto to host Thanksgiving Classic

Palmetto to play Southeast in marquee game of Thanksgiving Classic

adell@bradenton.comNovember 28, 2013 

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Manatee's Mikelson Jeanbrinival grabs Palmetto's Jarrid Rhodes around the waist, drawing a foul as the Hurricanes host the Tigers on Tuesday at Manatee High School. GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald

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PALMETTO -- The prevailing opinion is that Palmetto has the best boys basketball team in the county.

Tigers head coach Reggie Bellamy doesn't like to hear that kind of talk, but his players are making it difficult to silence the crowd.

Unbeaten Palmetto has won its three games by a combined 192-73, giving up an average of 24.3 points per game in defeating Manatee, Booker and Bayshore.

The Tigers have a talented senior front court in 6-foot-7 Jarrid Rhodes, 6-4 Stepvon Saunders and 6-5 Jordan Young. They are averaging 15.3, 9.7 and 10.7 points per game, respectively.

"The teams we beat were in transition with their football players coming back, and some had new coaches. I am expecting we are not as good as that 3-0," Bellamy said. "What I am most happy about is our defensive energy. We have been very effective in anticipating on the defensive end. We have to become a lot better on offense."

The Tigers get an opportunity to make their case stronger this Friday and Saturday at the Palmetto Thanksgiving Classic.

The host team faces Southeast on Saturday in a game that could feature Manatee County's two best boys teams, at least in the early going.

Southeast has the area's most celebrated young player in sophomore Ronald Taylor, who earned national recognition this summer at several camps.

A 6-3 lefty guard, Taylor scored 30 points in Southeast's only regular season game, a 57-51 triumph over Bradenton Christian.

Southeast's new head coach, Floyd Watkins, said the strength of his team is in the backcourt with Taylor and Greg Alexandria, another sophomore who was on the varsity last season.

"Ron is a very smart, talented player who has a high basketball IQ that combined with his physical skills makes him a very good player," Watkins said. "Greg is our point guard. He is about 5-8, jumps well and is quick and fearless going to the basket. They are sophomores, but pretty advanced as basketball players."

Southeast plays Booker in Friday's first game at 3 p.m., and Palmetto faces Manatee at 5 p.m.

Palmetto and Southeast meet Saturday following the Manatee-Booker game, which tips off at 6 p.m.

Palmetto dismantled Manatee 58-14 in the season opener for both and led 45-8 at halftime. Bellamy says the Canes will be better with the addition of some football players.

He doesn't want to hear talk that this could be one of the best Palmetto basketball teams in school history.

"I wouldn't want to go in that direction. We just want to fight to the last quarter, the last minute and the last second," Bellamy said.

Southeast has some size in 6-6 Cecil Richardson, 6-4 Aarien Foster and newcomer 6-4 Isaac Toye. Larry Woodard off the football team is a nice 5-9 combo guard who can use his quickness and jumping ability to compensate for his lack of size.

"Whatever size we get we need to make it work to the max," Watkins said. "I have seen our confidence build and our learning curve is going up. We were down by six at halftime to defending state champion Tampa Jesuit. Our conditioning has helped."

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